Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 12, 1961
NUMBER 23, PAGE 1,12-13a

Walking By Faith

M. C. Kurfees

(A sermon preached at Campbell Street Church, Louisville, Kentucky, November 18, 1894.)

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7)

Christianity is pre-eminently a religion of faith. Let us get this fact well and firmly fixed in our minds, for it will be seen that upon a proper understanding and appreciation of this vital principle, all acceptable service to God depends.

Many skeptics attempt to throw discredit upon the Bible because its religion is purely a religion of faith. They tell us we have never seen the joyous "summer land," nor heard the enchanting music of angels in sweet vibrations "beyond the river," but that it all rests on faith. But the same may be said of other things founded on faith whose credibility, in the estimation of skeptics, is not affected by this circumstance. The fact that in sowing and reaping, boarding a railway car for transportation, or carrying on commercial intercourse with each other, men can only believe success will crown their efforts as it has the efforts of others in the past, is never urged as a reason for not acting. On the contrary, it only shows that men act on the principle of faith, and that they are in proportion as the evidence is strong and convincing. Hence, as a matter of fact, it is not unreasonable to act where action rests exclusively on faith; and hence, the objection has no force against the Bible.

But, not only is Christianity, as a system, purely a system of faith (Gal. 3:23), but, in order to its acceptableness, all service which we render to God must be of faith. No proportion is more clearly established in the Word of God than this. Not only is it plainly declared that "we walk by faith," but in Heb. 11:6, is the explicit statement that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Any act of religious worship, therefore, however great or small, must be of faith in order to please God. This does not mean that every act of man outside of religious service must be of faith. Man may follow his own wisdom or reason in the management of his own affairs, but in the service or worship of God, the only legitimate use of man's wisdom or reason is to acquiesce in whatever divine wisdom has revealed, and to thus "walk by faith." In the management of all affairs exclusively his own, man has the unquestionable right to follow his own judgment, provided he contravenes no principle of moral propriety or righteousness. In other words, beyond the regulation of man's conduct in all spheres of action by principles of moral integrity and righteous dealing, God has nowhere legislated for man, except in the service to be rendered exclusively to Him. In this sphere, however, God has legislated. He has ordained the worship to be rendered to Him, and human wisdom must neither add to, take from, nor in any way modify what He has prescribed, otherwise those who do so are walking by their own judgment, and not by faith. Hence, that we may see the principle on which all acceptable service to God must be rendered, let us now consider —

I. Faith Defined In Distinction From Opinion.

Two questions properly answered will present this distinction in its true light 1. What is it to walk by faith? In Rom. 10:17, Paul declares: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." This settles it as to how faith comes; it comes by hearing the Word of God. Accordingly, where there is no Word of God there can be no faith; and if no faith, then no walking by faith. This is not the opinion of a thousand hills, is vain worship. God's Word clearly reveals the fact that no kind of service which man may render to the Lord is acceptable, unless the Lord himself has ordered it. Gratuitous service is never acceptable to God. Seeing his great mistake, Saul now gives out the secret of his departure from the will of God in the following open confession: "I have sinned; I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and thy word; because I feared the people and obeyed their voice." There it is. Saul yielded to the will of the people instead of maintaining loyalty to the will of God. The same spirit is abroad today. To keep abreast of denominational fashions, the people clamor for departures from the will of God, while lax and latitudinarian leaders in the pulpit yield to the popular demand. Instead of leading the people along the pathway of loyalty to the Lord, they are themselves led by people to copy after the denominations around them. One divine purpose in placing elders over the church is to guard against false teaching (Acts 20:28-31; Tit. 1:7-11), but unfortunately in many instances, instead of maintaining a loyal stand by the Word of God, thus showing the young and uninstructed that it is wrong to follow the wisdom of men, the elders themselves yield to the imperious demands of the young people.

The schismatic and subversive scheme of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Num. 16, is another illustration in point. God's order was that Aaron and his sons should burn incense, while the Levites, to whom Korah and his company belonged, had other duties assigned them. Becoming tired of God's order, they protested to Moses that he and Aaron were assuming too much authority, and that they had as much right to burn incense as Aaron and his sons. To carry out their scheme more effectively, they gathered "two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown." Here were two hundred and fifty of the most prominent men among the people taking counsel against the Lord's order. Conventions and councils have been the hotbeds of heresy in all ages. The present instance was not an exception to the rule. Seeing they were determined to carry out their purposes, Moses told them to get ready with their censers. and then added: "Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind: if these men die the common death of all men, ....then the Lord hath not sent me; but if ....the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, ....then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord." No sooner had Moses delivered this loyal speech, than the earth clave asunder and swallowed up Korah and all his company. The Lord had just spoken words of warning to Moses and Aaron, and through them to the congregation, saying, "Separate yourselves from among this congregation; ....depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, ....lest ye be consumed in all their sins," thus teaching the solemn lesson that, when men deliberately depart from the will of God, we should separate ourselves from them. Through Paul, in Rom. 16:17, the New Testament enjoins the same duty: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them who are causing divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned, and turn away from them." This is the commandment of an inspired apostle of Christ.

Thus, we see there are but two ways, in general terms, to treat God's order — either obey it, or disobey it. Obedience consist in doing what God says, no more and no less. Disobedience consist in any departure from God's order, whether it be doing what He forbids, omitting all or a part that He commands, doing as religious service what He does not command, or in any modification of His will.

Let us now view this principle in the light of New Testament facts. According to the teaching of Jesus, the same principle holds good in the service of God today. It is still true that whenever and wherever men do, as religious service, what they are not commanded to do, it is rejected. But there is a broad distinction between doing a thing as religious service, and doing the same thing outside of religious service. As already observed at another point, an act wholly harmless in itself when done outside of religious service, may be very harmful when done in religious service. In light of some specifications, the correctness of this principle will clearly appear.

1. Washing the hands. In this there is nothing wrong in the mere act itself, as all can see, and yet it is one of the very acts which Jesus condemned in the strongest terms. (Mark 7:3, 7) But why did He condemn it? Look at the question from every possible point of view, and the only correct answer is, it was condemned because they were doing, as a religious service, something which, although right itself, had not been commanded.

2. Eating Meat. Is it wrong to eat meat? You answer, no. Then, suppose we place it on the Lord's table with the bread and wine? You are ready to say, that would not be right. Why not? You can neither say, it is because the act is wrong in itself, nor because it is forbidden; for we not only know it is not wrong to eat meat, but that God has nowhere said we must not eat it on His table. As in the former case, so here, there is only one correct answer, and this is, the wrong consists in the fact that the Lord has not told us to do so.

3. Infant baptism. Is it wrong to baptize infants? If so, why? Certainly not because it is wrong to apply water to infants, nor to dip them in water. It is true, God has commanded believer's baptism, but, notwithstanding this fact, it would still be right to practice both, as has been done, if God had commanded it. The practice is wrong, therefore, not because the act itself is sinful apart from religious service, but because there is no divine authority for the act in religious service.

4. Instrumental music. Is it wrong to play on musical instruments? Here again we must reply, there is nothing wrong in the act itself outside of religious service. The opposition to instrumental music in the worship is misunderstood by many good people. They often say: "Instrumental music is so attractive and entertaining in its effect that we can not see why anyone should oppose it. If this were the criterion of judgment, the opposition would cease at once. Its use in the worship of God is not opposed on the ground that there is no taste for the music itself. The bewitching strains of the organ, piano, violin, etc., are equally as pleasing and attractive to many of the opponents as they are to any who advocate its use. Why, then, oppose it? Simply because God has not appointed it in His worship, but has appointed music of another kind. God has no more plainly said, eat bread on the Lord's table than He has said use vocal music in the worship. In Eph. 5:19, Paul says: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" and in Col. 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God;" and Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn at the institution of the Lord's Supper. (Matt. 26:30) Hence, by both precept and example, vocal music is appointed in the worship of God. It is sometimes argued from Rev. 5:8, and 14:2, that there will be instrumental music in heaven; but what of it? There will be infant membership there, too; and the same passage speaks of "golden bowls of incense." If the Lord provides for infant membership and instrumental music in heaven, it will be right for them to be there; but if He excludes both from the church on earth, we should do the same. God's will should be man's guide.

But it is claimed that the Lord has not forbidden instrumental music. Neither has He forbidden meat on the Lord's table, except by telling us to eat something else; and in the same way He has forbidden instrumental music by telling us to use another kind. If specifying what we are to eat on the Lord's table excludes everything else, then specifying what kind of music we are to use in worship, excludes every other kind. If not, why not? Here, then, are four distinct acts — washing the hands, eating meat, dipping an infant in water, and playing on musical instruments, all of which are sinless in themselves, but wrong when done as religious acts, because there is no divine authority for it. The worship of God was not appointed as an aesthetical performance to please and gratify man's taste, but to please and honor God by loyalty to His Word. We are to walk by faith.